Tag Archives: wine

Think pink!

No, I’m not going to be talking about rosé, trendy though it might be. Wine grapes are either red or white, right? Well, in fact, there are plenty of varieties whose grapes are pink-skinned, except you wouldn’t know, as many of these are used to create white wines.

Szűrkebarát
Think Pinot Grigio aka Pinot Gris aka Grauburgunder, or, as it’s known here in Hungary, Szűrkebarát, after the Cistercian monks who planted the variety in Badacsony near Lake Balaton in the twelfth century. Szűrkebarát means ‘grey monk’.

Pinot GrisGiven the oceans of thin, almost transparent Pinot Grigio that emerge from northern Italy and are quaffed around the world, you’d never guess that it’s berries are actually pink. Even the more opulent style of Pinot Gris produced in Alsace doesn’t give you any indication that the grapes have pink skins. Incidentally, the variety used to be called Tokay in Alsace until it was forced to refrain from using this name on the insistence of the Hungarians who objected to its use, as this engendered confusion with its naturally sweet wines from Tokaj, whose name Alsatians likely appropriated in the past to benefit from the former’s fame.

Pinot Gris is in fact a colour mutation of Pinot Noir, so a kind of red grape in a pink grape’s clothing. Its grapes range from pinky-purple to almost Pinot Noir colour in hotter sites, which perhaps explains the colour of one of the wines we tasted. A fellow taster exclaimed, “How long did they macerate it? Two years!”

Perhaps the more traditional Friulian and Venetian ramato style of Pinot Grigio, whereby the Pinot Grigio is macerated on its skins, producing a coppery coloured wine, nowadays referred to as amber or orange wine, would give us more of a hint of the berries’ clothing.

Taking a look at four very different Hungarian versions:

Centurio Szürkebarát 2017 (Mátra)
Ludányi szürkebarátIts pale onion skin colour, delicate herbal notes and spice point to some skin maceration. Attractive nose of mandarin, spice peach and orange. Full-bodied and layered on the palate with a buttery, creamy texture, Plenty of ripe fruit, spice, salinity, touch of toasty oak and a slightly warming, relatively long finish. A lovely wine. 84 (84)

Nádas Borműhely Vagy mi? 2016 (Etyek Buda)
Nádas Vagy miA Pinot Gris that’s the colour of Pinot Noir! Initially I found it very tannic and a little bitter with plenty of beautiful spicy cherry, rust and blood orange on the nose. Perhaps a little lacking acidity, but attractive fruit, beetroot and a touch of mushroom on the long finish. The points here reflect my initial taste, but on coming back to it at the end of the tasting, it had opened and the tannins no longer felt so bitter, so I would push it up a little. Intriguing wine. 80 (81)

Villa Tolnay Pinot Gris 2016 (Badacsony)
IMG_9849A pale lemon wine with plenty of autumn fruit and peach. A little rustic on the palate with slightly sour acidity and some savoury, cooked vegetable notes. A slight sweetness and warming alcohol on the finish. 78 (82)

Laposa PINO 2017 (Badacsony)
Laposa szürkebarátPale lemon with a hint of onion skin. Unappealing aromas of straw, wilted flowers and wet garden with some toasted sesame seeds. A touch of tannin on the palate with some floral and peachy notes. Savoury and spicy but lacking in acidity and too much residual sugar – a typical problem in traditional-style Badacsony Szűrkebarát. 78 (80)

Tramini
Another pink-berried variety that’s more usually found as an opulent golden wine in Alsace as Gewürztraminer and in northern Italy as Traminer Aromatico. Interestingly, it is genetically identical to Savagnin Blanc of Jura fame and Savagnin Rose, of which it is thought to be an aromatic mutation.

TraminiThe variety is known for its deep golden, full-bodied and headily aromatic wines with perfumed aromas of rose petals, lychees and exotic fruit. Alcohol is generally on the high side and acidity can sometimes be low, thus rendering the wines flabby. The name Gewürztraminer, comes from the German word ‘gewürz’, meaning spicy or seasoned, as its distinctive scent is often referred to as spicy.

Tramini under its various names is widely planted in Hungary and across Eastern Europe, where it is generally lighter, and its trademark aroma muted due to high yields. If grown on volcanic rock, e.g. Somló, it retains better acidity.

We put two Hungarian Traminis to the test, both from abbey-related wineries – Apatság meaning abbey in Hungarian.

Somlói Apátsági Pincészet Tramini 2016 (Somló)
SAP TraminiPale gold in colour with plenty of opulent tropical fruit, honey, grapefruit and stoniness on the nose. Rich and ripe on the palate with peach and quince complementing the tropical fruit along with some melon, caramel and orange. Characteristic of the variety, perhaps a little lacking in acidity, but full-bodied, complex, layered and smoky with a long, warming finish. Star of the show. 86 (86)

Pannonhalmi Apátsági Pincészet Tramini 2017 (Pannonhalma)IMG_9851
Aromatic on the nose with fresh tropical fruit, grape flower and plenty of perfume. Clean and fresh on the palate with bags of lemon, yellow rose and peach. Long finish with a touch of bitterness. 84 (83)

Korai Piros Veltelini
Fruhroter VeltlinerDespite the name, this is not the brother of Zöld Veltelini (Grüner Veltliner); it has many relations, but its green namesake is not one of them. A natural crossing of Roter Veltliner and Silvaner, it is the sibling of Neuburg and the half-sibling of Rotgipfler and Zierfandler. As a grandchild of Savagnin, it’s also related to Gewürztraminer, but the relatively neutral wines it produces bear no resemblance to their distant relation’s. Greatest plantings of it are in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), where it is known as Frühroter Veltliner; it’s also grown sparsely across the border in Sopron too, where our wine originates.

Taschner Korai Piros Veltliner (Sopron)
Taschner KPVNose of grapefruit and apple with perfumed, waxy notes as well as slightly oxidised, cider vinegar character. Relatively high acidity makes it fresh and zesty, but rather lacking in fruit. A slight prickle appears on the short finish. The palate is slightly more pleasant than the nose. The wine lives up, or down, to the variety’s reputation for neutral wines meant for early drinking. 78 (78)

Hungarian pink berries, ancient and modern
And now to three varieties that few outside Hungary, and probably within Hungary too, will have heard of, let alone tasted!

Kövidinka
Jancis Robinson’s ‘Wine Grapes’ describes Kövidinka as a ‘common pink-skinned Hungarian variety making commonplace whites’. Allegedly already cultivated in the Middle Ages, it’s widely planted in Central and Eastern Europe, mainly in central and southern Hungary on the Alföld (Great Plain), an area not best known for its quality wine production. It’s a resistant, hardy chap, hence perhaps its popularity in this region known best for bulk and table wine, producing light, fairly neutral wines for early consumption.

Font Pincészet Kövidinka 2017 (Kunság)
Font kövidinkaPale lemon in colour with a waxy, peachy nose of yellow apple and mandarin with some floral notes. Rather simple on the palate with some tropical fruit and an artificial banana and pear drops note. A slightly sweet, short finish, low alcohol and lack of acidity rendered the wine quite flat and unbalanced. 78 (81)

Pintes
Another ancient Hungarian variety, believed to have been extinct following phylloxera, Pintes was rediscovered at the foot of the Mecsek hills near Pécs in 1968. Nobody knew what its original name was, so it was renamed Pintes thanks to its massive, high-yielding bunches (a ‘pint’ is a Hungarian measure equivalent to 1.69 litres). It was then officially recognised and 12 hectares planted around the country. Now only 1.5 hectares remain, accidentally ending up in the hands of the Vinum Veress winery in Csáford, who decided they would do what they could with it, despite the fact that it’s late-ripening, susceptible to disease and its wines are somewhat rustic, and so now have the honour of producing the only Pintes in the world.

Vinum Veress Családi Borpince Pintes 2017 (Zala)
Veress PintesMedium lemon in colour with a citrus and floral nose along with a touch of musty chalk. The restrained palate is dominated by grapefruit, along with its associated bitterness, and some yellow apple. Rather mouthpuckeringly sour and reminiscent of crab apples, the finish leaves you with the impression of a high-alcohol cider. 76 (78)

Generosa
A modern Hungarian crossing obtained in 1951 from Ezerjó and Piros Tramini (Savagnin Rose), tested at the Kecskemét viticultural research centre and finally christened Generosa in 2004, although it has nothing to do with the Portuguese variety of the same name. The variety is now growing in popularity, apparently having met its aim of obtaining a grape easier to enjoy and grow than Ezerjó! Kunság, Hajós Baja and Mór now boast 400 hectares of this variety, producing fresh, easy-drinking wines with peach, pear and citrus flavours.

Frittmann Generosa 2017 (Kunság)
Frittmann generosaA rather one-dimensional wine with aromas of ripe apple and stone fruit and some floral hints. Fresh, zesty acidity with a touch of sweet lemon curd and a hint of minerality. Cloyingly sweet on finish. 82 (81)

All wines were tasted blind by a group of journalists as part of a series of press tastings organised at the Kostolom borbar in Budapest by Edit Szabó of Borsmenta. The first scores are mine, the second (in brackets), the rounded aggregate of all tasters.

Csoportkép 1

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Junibor welcomes new member to its fold

At the beginning of December, the Association of Young Wine Makers, Junibor welcomed ababiczki-laszlo new member to its ranks. László Babicz was selected at the AGM, the first member from the Mátra wine region, the largest of Hungary’s historic wine regions. László inherited his vines from his grandparents and has been involved with winemaking since his school days. He was able to take this to a professional level with the support of his parents and grandparents.

Tamás Hernyák, president of the association, points out that ‘Junibor is a community, so they try to select new members who will take part in joint programmes and activities and help to build the community’.

His wines will soon find themselves on the shelves of DiVino, the chain of winebars with which Junibor works in close cooperation, taking part in its everyday life, for example with evening events where they welcome guests and offer them the opportunity to taste barrel samples and wines which are only available at the cellar door.

Junibor members present their new wines

On 16 November, Junibor members presented their new wines to guests at the DiVino Gozsdu wine bar in Budapest.

mtszl_ff-9215Junibor, the Hungarian Association of Young Winemakers, was formed in 2008 to bring together young winemakers and create a community helping to provide professional development for the next generation of winemakers. Junibor members have to be talented young winemakers aged under 35 when they are chosen and can only remain in the association until they are 40. They are very often the offspring of another generation of prominent winemakers. They currently have around 30 members from 11 wine regions in Hungary.

mtszl_ff-9310.JPGIts history has been intertwined with the DiVino chain of winebars, the first one opening facing St Stephen’s Basilica in 2011, with the aim of offering only Hungarian wines, including the best wines of the Junibor members. The chain has grown over the last five years, with new locations opening in Győr and the Gozsdu Udvár in Budapest, which offers 120 wines by the glass, and was where the tasting was held.

mtszl_ff-9133Zsolt Gere from Villány showed an attractive youthful Muscat Ottonel using bought-in grapes and his Marton Napi Újbor, a Portugieser. The Portugieser was not a light wine, like usual, but a thicker wine with more tannins, yet elegant and playful. The bunches had been big with large grapes and there had been a couple of shrivelled grapes in each bunch. It saw no oak, went through malo and was then bottled, bright, fruity and fresh. He admitted that it had been a difficult year, with spring frost, and they had been happy to save the grapes. Their Cab Franc, Sauvignon and Merlot should be capable of producing premium wines, whereas the others will probably fall into the good category.

Peti Frittmann from Kunság brought along an aromatic Irsai Oliver, which was light and mtszl_ff-9148balanced and a Neró rosé. The grapes for this had been harvested early and resulted in a very floral rosé with plenty of red fruit and rose. Peti said that the cool year had contributed to the intensity of the aromas and the retention of acidity. He also produced a rosé blend from Medina and Zweigelt, which was fresh, crisp and fruity. The reds that they were able to harvest later were good too, he said, also maintaining a good level of acidity.

mtszl_ff-9279Tomi Kovács from Szent Donat in Csopak had a pair of vineyard-selected wines. A Kódex Olaszrizling from the Slikker vineyard, fermented partly in oak and partly in stainless steel, very attractive fresh wine with good acidity, lingering minerality and almond notes on the finish. The other wine was a Furmint from the Márga vineyard, partly aged in pyrogranite bowls, which he tells me, are a little like concrete eggs, allowing the wine to breathe, thus micro-oxidise, as if it were in oak but imparting no influence and so allowing the grape and terroir to shine through. Certainly the Furmint demonstrated excellent varietal purity and lovely minerality from the Márga soils. He said that they had experienced a lot of hail and had not even been able to harvest anything in some vineyards, although they had managed to save about 30-40% in Slikker. The harvest took place three weeks later than usual, and the quality was excellent where there had not been any hail.

Flóra Jekl from Villány poured a Primo rosé made from Kadarka, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Fresh and fruity, a bit tutti frutti with a touch of spice. She told me that she would also make a gyöngyöző (lightly sparkling) wine from this. Her Portugieser was light and fruity with fresh acidity.

mtszl_ff-9255.JPG

Tomi Kis from Somló brought along a Somlói Juhfark from the Gróf vineyard, an attractive nutty wine with plenty of yellow fruit and minerality. Tomi reported that they had suffered more than 60% damage due to hail, and the result will be a small quantity of good wines. To make matters worse, they waited until the last minute to harvest, and then the birds came!

Ákos Kamocsay presented wines from the mtszl_ff-9200.JPGMór wine region. A Rhine Riesling, still cloudy and young, that will be bottled next year, so very much a sample. The Chardonnay, also a sample, is being aged in 500l used oak and will spend 8-12 months in barrel on its lees and then go into stainless steel. Quite smoky and toasty with plenty of fruit along with zippy acidity and perhaps a touch of tannins. He said that Mór had also experienced a mixed year, afflicted by both frost and hail, but those who had not suffered damage had harvested good, healthy grapes.

As usual, Csabi Miklós was surrounded by a gaggle of admirers, so it was rather difficult to mtszl_ff-9164.JPGexchange any words with him, but he conjured up a barrel sample of his Demi Moor Királyleányka, which with lovely peach fruit and a touch of residual sugar, he said was intended to be a gastro and festival wine. His Ezerjó, the key wine of the Mór region, was fresh, lemony and appley with a touch of residual sugar and some saltiness on the finish.

mtszl_ff-9196.JPGDóri Bussay from the Zala region had a barrel sample of her Pinot Noir, still displaying some yeasty notes. The aim here, she says, is to have a fresh, fruity wine, so it will move barrels frequently. They were lucky and only had about four vines affected by frost as they are on a plain rather than in a valley, and the hail there came with rain, thus not much loss. The wine exhibited nice cherry fruit, was quite full bodied, with smooth tannins. It will have 8-10 months in oak and 2 months in bottle before release next August.

Csaba Vesztergombi had a Királyleányka, bottled that day, attractive and balanced, with mtszl_ff-9247.JPGplenty of stone fruit, very drinkable. He also showed a Pinot Noir rosé, gaining its colour simply from being pressed. Fresh, attractive fruit, elegant, bright and very quaffable.

Tomi Hérnyak from Etyek brought along a Sauvignon Blanc, which generally does well in Etyek due to its cooler climate, and displayed lovely varietal character, although still a bit yeasty. Tomi says that they can make good varietals and aromatic whites this year in Etyek. The autumn was hot and sunny, which was a saving grace after the earlier part of the year. He also had a late-harvested Zöldveltini, which had lovely citrus flavours of lime and lemon and some green peppercorns. Balanced, spicy and with good acidity.

mtszl_ff-9324.JPGBence Dúzsi from Szekszárd had a rosé from Blauburger, Portugieser and Zweigelt. Pale, attractive fruit, restrained on nose, but more intense on palate. Fresh and very quaffable, with perhaps a spritz of CO2. The red estate wine (Birtokbor) of 50% Kékfrankos, Cab Franc, Sauvignon, Merlot and some Pinot Noir aimed to show the winery’s characteristic varieties, and was rich and fruity with a hint of toasty oak.

Andi Gere from Villány had DiVino branded Irsai Oliver, light, summery and aromatically fragrant, and a rosé from Kékfrankos, Merlot, Portugieser and Pinot Noir, restrained and elegant, but with enough bright fruit to balance the fresh acidity. She also had a barrel sample of Portugieser, which will spend a further three months in oak. Attractive fruit and some toast and coffee, but with just a touch of bitterness and slightly flabby acidity.

Angelika Árvay of Tokaj had a Sauvignon Blanc which had only been harvested on 26 September. The grapes were bought-in, but they did the harvest themselves. It has only seen stainless steel and will hopefully be bottled in January or February. Attractive varietal character and lovely fresh acidity. A tank sample of Sárga Muskotály was the last wine. It needed lots of aeration as it was very yeasty, but some lovely grapey aromas shone through, with a touch of salt and some residual sugar.

The crowds were now building up, so it was time to head off, but all in all an impressive collection of still very young wines.

(Photos courtesy of Junibor and Árpád Pintér)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grape varieties – Kéknyelű

badacsony hillKéknyelű is a relatively rare white variety which grows only in Hungary, principally on the volcanic soils of Badacsony on the northern shore of Lake Balaton and in the Balaton Felvidék, although there are some plantings in Etyek-Buda, Zala and Kunság. Once widely planted, indeed it was once one of the most widely planted Hungarian varieties, much of it was grubbed up in the seventies in favour of more productive and reliable international varieties.  At the end of the twentieth century, there were approximately 40ha remaining in Badacsony, although there have been some new plantings of the variety recently. It is named after its bluish stalks.

It was for a long time assumed to be the same as the Picolit variety found in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, however this was disproved in 2006 as a result of isoenzyme and microsatellite tests.

It is not the easiest of varieties to grow and is cultivated in the ancient style with separate keknyelurows of both male and female grapevines; it needs its male counterpart, Budai Zöld, in order to pollinate as it only has female flowers. Then the wind is relied upon for pollination to ensure proper yields. It is thick-skinned, with small to medium-sized berries and relatively small clusters. It is susceptible to frost, but tolerates drought well, and thanks to its thick skins, doesn’t succumb easily to rot. It is late maturing and is generally harvested early to mid-October. In the past its relatively low yields led to local peasants calling it the ‘Gentleman’s grape’, as this meant it was rather expensive. Despite this, it was popular before phylloxera, although it was then eclipsed after WWII by high-yield varieties.

The variety responds well to both reductive and oxidative wine-making. It can be rustic and simple, but when well made, it is a unique, exciting, aromatic variety.

The wine has a pale lemon colour and can yield a savoury, smoky wine with hints of gunpowder, lemon, stone fruits, white blossom and herbs. It is generally full to medium bodied, with high acidity and high alcohol and demonstrates well the minerality of Badacsony’s characteristic basalt terroir. It is a heady, perfumed andlaposa keknyelu refined wine, which shines with a sense of place. It can be drunk young but thanks to its high acidity, it comes into its own after a few years, developing an attractive honeyed nuttiness with bottle age.

Now, as many wine lovers are look for more interesting, unique wines, it is gaining in popularity again. It pairs well with grilled fish or goats cheese.

Producers to watch out for: Szeremley Birtok, Laposa Pincészet, Borbély Családi Pince, Nyari Pince and Istvándy Családi Pincészet

 

Turán

A dark-skinned grape variety (known in the US as Agria), with deeply pigmented flesh, most commonly used to enhance colour in blends. It forms an important part of Egri Bikavér. However, I had the chance to try this as a varietal from Szeczkő pince. Luscious dark berries, perfumed mouth-filling flavours, beautiful dark violet in the glass. Only 445 bottles were produced, so sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to get my hands on another bottle.

Szecsko_Turan_11

Unusual grape varieties galore

The last month or so has seen a myriad of wine-tasting events or opportunities – in Budapest, Pécs, Vác, Vienna – in which I was on a voyage of discovery of unknown (to me, at least) grape varieties. Many of these varieties were local, auctocton, unusual or ’forgotten’. Forget Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Co and take a voyage of discovery into local, unusual grape varieties. Try a glass of:

Whites: Kövidinka, Ezerjó, Pintes, Zoldfülű, Mézes Fehér, Szerémi Szerelem, Nektár, Zeus

Reds: Turan, Fekete Leanyka, Medina

Fröccs for beginners

Fröccs

Summer finally seems to have come, if today is any indication at all. So, unless you are a hardened wine snob, it is time to move onto the more refreshing ‘fröccs’ while you are soaking up the sun on the terrace or in the ‘romkocsma’.

Fröccs (pronounced frerch, to rhyme with perch) is the Hungarian for wine spritzer. Most languages generally have one word to describe this drink, e.g. in German ‘Weinschorle’, in English ‘wine spritzer’, and more or less one way of making it. Hungarian, however, being the complicated language of a complex people, has a myriad of terms to describe the full range of fröccs available.

Let’s start with the easiest ones, that is the most commonly drunk ones. So, you can have either a ‘kis fröccs’ or a ‘nagy fröccs’, that is a small or a big one. What does that actually mean? Well the kis fröccs is 1dl (that’s 100ml to you and me) wine to 1dl soda water. The nagy fröccs is 2dl wine to 1dl soda. All well and good, now comes the ‘hosszúlépés’, good if you’re a bit more thirsty or it’s too early in the day for any serious drinking. This is 1dl wine to 2dl soda.

If your friends are drinking pints of beer and you don’t want to be waiting around with an empty glass until they finish up, then your tipple of choice has to be the ‘viceházmester’, which weighs in at 2dl wine to 3dl soda. Find that a bit watery, then try the slightly stronger ‘házmester’, just reverse the volumes.

Need to rehydrate after running to the bar? Well then, have a ‘sportfröccs’, 1dl wine and 4dl soda. Or needing to catch up after the others have had a headstart? You could knock back a quick ‘háziúr’ (4dl wine to 1dl soda).

Of course, some of these have several names, which I won’t bore you with. Unless you speak Hungarian, you’ll neither be able to say them or to understand what they mean anyway.

After this we move into the realms of the sublime and ridiculous. The volume is upped to a litre. So, actually probably quite good for the Sziget when you don’t want to keep having to stand in a queue to get a top up.

Choose from:

Magyar-angol (Hungarian – English) or puskás fröccs – 6dl wine to 3dl soda – you have to know something about football to understand this one. A Hungarian football fan will no doubt be very pleased to explain this one to you! An English fan probably won’t want to hear the explanation.

Távolugrás – 1dl wine to 9dl soda
Polgármester – 6dl wine to 4dl soda
Apolgármester – 4dl wine to 6dl soda
Avasi fröccs – 7dl wine to 3 dl soda
Krúdy fröccs – 9dl wine to 1 dl soda
Mafla – 5dl wine to 5dl soda

A few more variations of even larger volumes or different ’mixers’ exist, including, to my mind quite revoltingly, cola, but strangely, there does not seem to be a 2-8 or 8-2 variation. I wonder whether this is deliberate or simply an oversight.

The other consideration is, of course, what colour fröccs to have – fehér (white), rozé or vörös (red)
You could then also perk up your fröccs with a drop of elderflower (in white wine) or lavendar (in rose) cordial. Just a drop though, or you’ll end up with some sickly sweet concoction resembling a flavoured Babycham.

So time to get out to the bar and try out your newfound fröccs knowledge.

Egészségedre!

Of course, being a wine snob, I shouldn’t really be drinking watered down wine. Never mind. Make sure it’s the good stuff rather than the folyó bor (house wine).